There are two of these. Which do you think we should keep?


Absolem and Josina Scina Nichols Davis

Absolem and Josina Scina Nichols Davis moved from Marion County, TN, to Lot 65, District 10 Section of Dade County, GA, in about 1848. Absolem was the son of the Methodist minister, James Davis, and his first wife Priscilla Panther, of White County, TN. Josina was the daughter of Dave and Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols of Marion County. Absolem and Josina had lived in White County in 1825, then in Marion County from the early 1830’s, until their move to Dade County in 1848. This family is of particular interest to me because both my late wife, Kathryn Mae Whitley Vance and I descend from this family; she from the third daughter Aley Page and I from the second son, David Davis.

The early land records for Dade County before 1849 have been lost and we have not found the deed for the purchase of this land Lot 65 had been owned originally by Mary Wilkinson, a widow, living in Chastain’s District in Habersham County, GA, a fortunate drawer in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery. Today this land lies next to Interstate 59, but when the Davis family lived there it was one of the most isolated areas in an isolated county.

In both the 1850 and the 1860 censuses the Davis’ post office was Running Water, TN, rather than Trenton, GA. There were three unmarried Davis daughters living at home when the 1850 census was taken: Mary Ann, age 29, Priscilla, age 26, and Kathrine, age 24. Absolem’s four boys were: John, age 20, David, age 16, William, age 13, and Ephram, age 10. Next door, their married daughter, Aley, age 21, lived with her husband Edward Page, age 23, along with their son John Page, one year old. The family had moved to Georgia only that year because the baby, John, had been born in Tennessee.

The eldest daughter, Mary Ann, named for her maternal grandmother, was born about 1824 and died between 1850 and 1860. We know nothing more about her.

Aley, the fourth daughter, and her husband Edward, reared a large family in Dade County, and are buried in the Brown’s Gap Cemetery. Their family is discussed in a later section.

Catherine, the third daughter, named for her mother’s sister, was born about 1826 and died on Feb. 10, 1870 as a single woman. Her vocal will provides us with much information concerning the make up of the Davis family at the time of her death. She called in the neighbors and told them that her sister, Priscilla Hale, was to receive all of her property except for one dress which was to go to her niece, Martha Davis (my grandmother). At the time of Catherine’s death her father had died, and she and Priscilla owned the family farm in common. In order to prove this will, the neighbors signed affidavits to what Catherine had told them. Also, all of Catherine’s possible heirs were listed. This included her mother, her living brothers and sisters, and the children of her deceased siblings. What a genealogical find.

The second daughter, Priscilla, named for her paternal grandmother, married a man named Hale. We do not know his first name, only that he and Priscilla married and he died between the time of the 1850 Census and the I860 Census. Priscilla Davis Hale’s only daughter, Eliza Caroline, married William Andrew Gober before 1870 and died before 1880. After her daughter died, Priscilla reared her two grandsons, Wesley William and Jesse. She continued to live with her grandson, Jesse Gober, on the Davis farm in the isolated “Egypt Holler until she died sometime after 1910.

The Civil War decimated the Davis family. Their eldest son, John, had moved to Franklin County, AR, before 1860 with his Nichols relatives. He served in an Arkansas regiment in the Confederacy as a sign of his devotion, John named his only son John Sterling Price Davis, after his old army commander General Sterling Price. John married his cousin Caroline Nichols, and they lived in Franklin Co., AR, Fannin Co., TX, the Choctaw Nation in the Indian Territory, and the New Mexico Territory. He is buried in Francis, OK.

The other three Davis sons, David, William, and Ephraim, joined Company F of the Georgia 34th regiment with their neighbors from Dade County.

Ephraim, the youngest son, had been in several altercations and had been arrested several times for fighting before he was 18. In 1860 he and his wife, Celia, were living next door to his parents, Absolem and Josina. He was captured at Champion Hill, MS with the others in his company and was paroled. Like most of the other captured Confederate soldiers he re-joined his regiment in defiance of the terms of his parole. He was re-captured at Chickamauga on Sept. 19, 1863. He died of smallpox in the Federal Prison at Camp Douglas, IL, on April 1, 1864, and is buried in the Union cemetery in Chicago, IL.

Our “lost” Davis son was William, born about 1837. In 1860 he was living in the John W. McCauley (McCalle)y household in Crown Point, Marion County, TN. He was captured at Vicksburg, MS, paroled and re-joined his regiment. He was re-captured at Dalton, GA, May 15, 1864, and sent to the Federal prison at Camp Morton, IN. His amnesty papers from the U.S. government list his home as Chattanooga, TN. William had died by the time his sister, Catherine Davis’ will was made in 1870. According to that will he was survived by three children: Samantha, William L, and George W. Davis. We have no other record of these Davis children. John McCalley is mentioned again as part of the probate records for the Davis children and we have assumed that William’s wife might have been his daughter.

David, my great-grandfather, named for his grandfather, David Nichols, was born in Marion County, TN, on April 27, 1834 and died in Dade County, GA, on May 24, 1867. He married Mary Ann Prince, daughter of Greenberry and Susannah Dykes Prince. In 1860 they were living at Point Lookout in Dade County with their two sons, John Greenberry and William Alien, both born in Alabama. His daughter, Martha Matilda Catherine Davis was born Nov. 27, 1862, after he had gone to the army. David went with the other Dade County men in the 34th Ga. Regiment and was captured at Champion Hill, paroled and re-captured on Sept. 9, near Trenton. He was moved to Camp Douglas, IL, where he joined the Union Army with 1600 Confederate prisoners in Oct. 1864. He served in Kansas with the U.S. Volunteers until he was discharged Nov. 7, 1865. Forrest Appleton Davis remembers hearing the story from his grandmother, Caroline Nichols Davis that “Uncle Dave” walked from Kansas to their farm in Arkansas. His feet were wrapped in sacks and he was limping badly as he continued to his home in Dade County. When he arrive at home he found that his wife, Mary Ann, had died leaving him with three children. According to the Dade County Tax Records, Dave paid taxes on $325 on debts and money, $100 on other property in 1866. He owned one sheep, zero land. He had two children between 6 and 18, John G. and William Alien. Martha Matilda would not have been 6 years old at that time. He married Sarah L. Moore, daughter of Thomas and Julia Ann Booth Moore, on Feb. 20, 1866. Their marriage is recorded on page 5 of the oldest extant Dade County marriage book. David and Sarah had one daughter, Sophia Lou Vinny, who was born April 9, 1867, just six weeks before David died on May 24, 1867. The executor of his estate paid $125 on 120 acres of land in Lot 134, Dist. 19, which is on the border of Jackson County, AL. He also paid taxes of $175 on other property. In the 1868 tax records his land was listed as 130 acres, which was closer to the correct amount, and was valued at $100.

David’s three children by his first wife moved to Arkansas. Sophia married James Avans and reared a large family in Dade County, GA, and Jackson Co., AL. David’s second wife, Sarah, married William Daniels and had a second family. Sophia, her mother and step-father are buried at Brown’s Gap cemetery. We do not know where David and Mary Ann are buried.

Josina lived until 1887 with her daughter and son-in-law, Aley and Edward Page. She had seen her large family in the 1850’s be reduced to only two daughters in the county in 1870. In 1874, she rode the train from Trenton, GA, to Mulberry, AR, to take her twelve year old granddaughter, Martha Matilda, to live with John, her only surviving son. She, like her husband and many of her family, is buried in an unmarked, unknown grave somewhere in the hills of Dade County.

There are two different families that are probably related to Absolem and Josina. In the 1850 census, two houses away from Absolem, there lived a thirty-six year old widow, Nancy Davis, with five children. This is one of our many un-answered questions concerning the Davis family. How was this woman related to Absolem Davis? We are also not sure what the relationship was between the Dr. Kirksey Davis and Absolem. Absolem’s son, David, lived next door to Kirksey when the 1860 census was taken. Kirksey sold Lot 59, located less than a mile from Absolem’s farm about 1866. Like the Davis graves, these family connections are lost to time.

Written by Paul R. Vance Mesa, AZ



  1. i am freda smelly from fort smith ark. we are kin of john clifton nichols and mary ann davis she was a daughter of james davis and martha welch from white co tenn.

  2. ablosam davis and mary ann davis wre brother and sister. mary ann davis was james davis and martha welch white co tenn

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